The cost of living seems to be constantly on the rise and family budgets are feeling the squeeze. How can you keep up with regular bills while still having family fun? We asked our favourite financial experts to give us the inside scoop on how to make your family budget last. From shopping online to spending a weekend money-free, they’ve given us tips to make your budget stretch further in every way.
5 tips to make a bullet-proof budget
Matt Boxer is the founder of GPA Financial Planning. He has over 10 years experience helping couples and families around Brisbane sort out their money. Here’s his advice for setting up a budget:
“A budget is not a list of your bills. A budget is a documented plan of the why, what, where and when of the allocation of your money towards the things in life that you would like to achieve. Here are 5 tips to turn your list of bills into a truly powerful budget:
1. Work out why you are saving: If you don’t know why you are saving money, then eventually your budget will go into the drawer and won’t see the light of day again.
2. Include everything: Your budget should include items like “appliance replacement” and “home maintenance”.
3. Get motivated: confirm, that if you stick to your listed expenditure, you will achieve your goals. So long as your goals are more important than spending that extra money then you will find it easy not to blow the budget.
4. Structure to save: your spending account should only have the money in it that you can spend without blowing your budget.
5. Monitor your progress: If you don’t feel like you are making progress you might be tempted to give up, so set some milestones and celebrate your successes.”
Get ahead of your insurance
Health insurance often puts families in a pickle. You don’t want to be without it but you aren’t sure how to fit it in with all your other payments. To top it off, they’re allowed to hike the price each year. As Richard Laycock, Insurance Expert at finder.com.au explains this will affect millions of Australians.
“On 1 April every year in Australia, health insurance premiums go up, and this year they will rise by 3.95% on average. This will affect a huge amount of Australians as around 13.5 million Australians have some form of health cover.”
Going without health cover keeps the bills at bay but won’t be any use when you’re faced with medical issues. So how can you get ahead? Richard had this advice for families who want to know they’re getting the best price:
“The good news is that there are a few ways singles, couples and families can avoid the premium increase, or at least lessen its impact.
- Firstly, shop around; using a comparison website or doing your own research can help you to find a provider that offers a similar policy for cheaper price.
- Paying for your premium upfront before 1 April will also allow you to avoid the increase. This means you pay for your entire policy for the next year now, before the prices rise. But you need to do this by the end of March. Some funds like HIF will even reward you with a discount on your premiums for doing so.
- To ensure you’re well covered at a good price, look out for value in your policy. Ensure that you have hospital cover that allows you to be treated in a private hospital, and do your research to make sure you get the best out of your policy.”
Teach your kids money matters
Busy mum and proud frugalista, Serina Huang, shares all her tips for family budgeting on her blog Ms Frugal Ears. She says teaching your kids about money will keep the whole family’s budgets on track.
“For older children, a great way to budget as a family is to use a spending app. Mobile apps such as ASIC's Track My Spend or Good Budgets can allow you to track your spending as a family so that you know what everyone is spending their money on. This allows you to visualise your spending and demonstrate visually to older children how small expenses add up.
My children (5 and 8) are too young to own their mobile phones. They get up to $5 a week for doing chores around the home together (e.g. 'collaboration' in emptying the dishwasher). They can spend this money however they like. What I am noticing is that when they have power over their own money they start to make informed choices. They know, for instance, that discount chain stores have better deals on their favourite toys than most toy stores. They also know that they can search for deals online. The really interesting thing I find is that they value and appreciate their toys much more when they have saved up and purchased them themselves. It certainly reduces the nag factor as well; if they don't have money in their piggy bank there is no point asking me for toys!”
Find Serina on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
MyDeal Pro Tip:
Make smart swaps in your home
For many families their home is their biggest investment but keeping up with regular maintenance is costly and time-consuming. Look for ways you can minimise the costs of ongoing maintenance in your home. For example, change up your front lawn for some evergreen artificial grass that minimises your gardening costs without sacrificing good looks. If you want to learn more about increasing your home value check out our other blog here.
Another smart move is avoiding excessive heating and cooling bills. To avoid needing the heating all night long in winter try an affordable mattress topper for an extra layer of warmth and softness. When the weather heats up again simply remove your warm topper or try a cool gel memory foam topper instead. By playing it smart you can keep your heating and cooling bills to a minimum while maintaining ultimate comfort.
Keep a ‘Waiting List’
Rachel Smith, from Cycling Rachel Smith, turned a lifestyle experiment into a successful savings program and her book Underspent. Here’s her advice to families who need a reality check:
“The best advice for families to budget is to ask, as a family, ‘Are we buying things just for the sake of buying?”
I believe in Waiting Lists. I always tell everyone, especially families, to make a Waiting List. I do it. I write down what I think I want to buy on a ‘three-month waiting list’. I keep my ‘Want List’ in the notes section on my iPhone. I write down the date and a description of the thing I ‘want’, the price and why I want it. If I still want and need said item when the 90 days have passed, I buy it. Nine times out of ten I don’t. If 3 months is too long for you, have a go at 7 or 14 days. Last October I thought I wanted a trampoline. 90 days passed. In January I said “Why did I even write trampoline on the list?!”
When you delay purchases – even if only for a couple of days – you have the time to discuss any potential new purchases as a family. If you don’t buy things instantly you think before spending and that’s the opportunity to have money miracles.
•Will your family create a Waiting List?
•Would you delay purchases that aren’t necessary for a few days?
•How much money could your family save by delaying purchases?”
Find Rachel on Facebook and Twitter.
How to save money, make money and find free fun
Peter Horsfield understands how confusing your finances can be. Which is why his career as a financial planner is so rewarding; he helps others understand their money better and achieve whatever goal they choose. He shared with us some ideas to help families save money, make money and how to have a money-free weekend.
Money Saving Ideas
“Instead of buying books join a library. Libraries today are more than books; they have DVD’s, newspapers, free internet, books of course. Free. Savings estimated $250 pa+
If you live close enough to walk/run/ride to work or public transport, only use the car on weekends or alternatively car share. Savings estimated $1,000 pa+
Hold off expensive purchase/gifts until sale time and/or shop at outlet or online so to minimise risk of overspending and of unnecessary compulsive purchases. Savings estimated $1,000 pa+
Buy in bulk cleaning, personal care, staple goods when on sale. Savings estimated $1,000 pa+”
Money Making Ideas
“If you don’t mind branding your car as a moving billboard you can earn approx $5,000 pa
In your spare time become a mystery shopper/write product reviews/research market group earn approx $2,500 annually in addition to receiving free products.
Consider ways to maximise your rental return if you have an investment property. Properties furnished white good properties can increase weekly rentals by an additional $50pw or $2,500pa and are depreciable items for tax.”
Have a free weekend
“Once a month set a challenge to have a money free weekend or try the challenge every weekend for a month. You’re guaranteed to find the experience aspirational and your expense account appreciate it.
- Get creative. Write poem, a short story, a song, your memoir, blog, a diary, draw etc
- Sort your old photo album and label where, when and your feeling at the time.
- Visit the library, an art gallery [or] museum in your city. Most, if not all are free entry.
- Attend a free community class, or concert, a free intro offer class, or religious service.”
Find Peter on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Sticking to your family budget is all about making smart choices with your money. We know you can do it if you just put your mind to it.